Thursday, June 21, 2007

Let’s face it, we all love a good row.

But in the gardening world, we don’t have that many of them. We go around being terribly polite to each other; bitching and sniping to be sure, but very little of the public dirty linen laundry that you see in many other fields of human endeavour. I suppose its because gardeners are basically nice people (pat on back).
Well now, here is a good one. The garden at Veddw House, the innovative garden created by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes near Chepstow, HAS BEEN DROPPED FROM THE RHS GARDEN FINDER. Shock! horror! Apparently because of “poor maintenance and cultivation”. You can see Anne and Charles’s response at . They share with us some appalling examples of ruin, dilapidation, and weed rampages at some of the gardens the RHS Garden Finder editor, Charles Quest-Ritson, sees fit to include in his guide – an ‘also-ran’ to the Good Gardens Guide, for those who don’t know it.
Yes, Veddw does sometimes get a bit rough at the edges, but then they don’t employ anybody, and the garden is in fact overwhelmingly well-maintained. There must be other reasons why Mr.Quest-Ritson has seen fit to dump not only one of the most thoughtful and deliberately challenging modern gardens from his guide, but also one which bears nothing other than the stamp of the RHS itself, who work with Anne and Charles on promoting the garden and events held there.
Perhaps Mr Quest-Ritson does not know a wild garden when he sees one. Moving on from the frantic rubbing of hands at this particularly juicy bit of scandal and name-calling, there is a serious point here. How do you convey intention with wild gardens? Christo (the late and great) did it the classic way – you can see that that grass is meant to be grass is long because of the neatly clipped topiary scattered about. Cutting paths through long grass is another well-known way of conveying intention. But with wild borders it is more difficult, especially when you include plants which some might regard as weeds. Anne and Charles have been braver than I would be in letting rosebay willowherb loose in their borders – but it is a fantastic ornamental. The problem is that certain plants are labelled weeds and the unimaginative then see any place which includes them as weedy. And therefore not nice.
A ‘native wild flower’ only area might contain such ‘weedy’ plants and be passed as acceptable. But the mixing of the two, of the cultivated and the wild, creates an ambiguity, the question is asked – “is it meant to look like that?” Provoking the garden visitor to ask such questions could be a very worthwhile act in itself. And why not mix robust native flora with robust ornamentals? Creeping buttercup makes a very attractive understorey to shrubs and large perennials. Breaking down old barriers and celebrating ambiguity is all a part of modernity and experimentation. Perhaps Mr Quest-Ritson should let some Ranunculus repens loose beneath his roses.

My critical review of Veddw can be seen at:

1 comment:

Anne Wareham said...

Noel's review of Veddw and more about the Quest-Ritson SCANDAL can be seen on the website
Best wishes
Anne Wareham